September 11, 2013

Ali’s mom has run out of medicine. I sat on the tile floor of their apartment as she showed me three different prescriptions. “You can read this one, I’m sure. It’s in your language.” It’s heart medication. Her older son Waleed shook his head, adding, “No one seems to have any of these here. What are we supposed to do?”


A month ago Ali, Waleed and their ailing mother still lived in Za’atari Camp, in a collapsing tent close to a medical supply center staffed by Saudi Arabian doctors. Over the eight months they spent in Za’atari, any stability that Ali’s family had developed was accompanied by even more worry due to street fights, decreasing stocks of supplies, joblessness, and sweltering heat.


Eventually, the family left the camp, settling in an unknown village, at an isolated corner where litter and pavement meet sand. They know no one in their new village.


I photographed the medication labels and walked out of the house with Ali. He grabbed my left hand, turning me around before I walked out. “Brother,” he said to me, “I’m running out of options. I can’t take mom back to Za’atari. She will die there.”


I promised to look into any local services that could help the family. Before I left, I asked Ali a question: “And what about you? What do you need?”


He paused and then looked at me directly in the eye. “I need a community,” he said, just as seriously as when he talked about his mother. “I am alone. This is not how it was, or how it is supposed to be.”


In Za’atari, more than 100,000 Syrians are living a life of displacement. Thousands more have faced multiple rounds of displacement, forced by circumstance to leave even their temporary homes. Thousands more sit at the Jordan-Syria border, waiting to be allowed to cross over into the complex and treacherous life of a refugee.


Questscope’s battle is not to ensure that every need is met. None of us are capable of that; the need is incomprehensibly large. Our battle is to build community. To build a circle of champions around as many individuals as possible, to seek out needed assistance, to share the immense burden, and to extend hands into the darkness and isolation that young men like Ali face.